Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday miscellany

Today's "@issue" section of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution features an interview with epidemiologist Devra Davis, author of a new book called "The Secret History of the War on Cancer." She's been a lightning rod for controversy for as long as I can remember, and if this interview is any indication Davis is not surrendering this role anytime soon. Her new book apparently claims that some of the world's best-known cancer epidemiologists were essentially on the take, pocketing money from tobacco and asbestos interests while publishing studies that put more blame on genes than on these and other everyday exposures.

In her new book, Davis argues that the so-called "war on cancer" has spotlighted diagnostic tests and novel therapies while soft-pedaling big money carcinogens like tobacco. Although I think that tobacco is the single biggest modifiable risk factor for cancer, Davis once published studies shifting the blame away from tobacco and onto environmental pollutants. But hey, it's all about learning as you go.

Speaking of which, check out the website Although we don't dwell on this, JRMC 8350 is a community journalism course: students must find the local angle for every story. This website provides excellent gut checks that help us determine whether we're really approaching our town with an open mind, or instead recounting a plot we framed in advance.

One final note, sparked by Red & Black's story on killer microwave popcorn: any JRMC8350 student who posts an acceptable critical analysis of a health/medical story in R&B or the Athens Banner Herald picks up 5 extra pounts for the term. This analysis must use a checklist as rigorous as the one deployed by, and if the article is about a clinical trial using theirs is a fine idea.

1 comment:

Bob Packwood said...

Quitting smoking is not an easy task, and smoking tobacco is not something that can just be shrugged off at a whim once started. The best course of action is to never smoke cigarettes in the first place, but for many of us it's too late for that. The best way to overcome any challenge, I find, is to learn as much as possible first.